Dover Port has operated as a trust for the last 400 years with all its profits being reinvested in its business instead of being distributed among shareholders. News that the port’s board have asked the government to consider a privatisation scheme could change this forever.
Those in favour of privatising the port argue that Dover Port, which is already the largest passenger port in northern Europe, must be free to act commercially – raising loans and investing heavily in new infrastructure – is vital to remain competitive. Under the present system this is not allowed.
However the idea of privatisation is worrying many people in Dover whose livelihoods depend on the jobs provided by the millions of freight and passenger vehicles that use Dover as their gateway to the continent.
Many, including the unions, fear that private ownership will lead to the demise of Dover Port. The idea of the port falling into the hands of foreign owners is particularly galling, with Dover’s unique place in British history making the concept appear contrary to the British interest.
Such is the gravity of this issue that even Dame Vera Lynn – who immortalised Dover with her classic World War II ballad The White Cliffs of Dover – has entered the fray, voicing support for a scheme backed by local Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke that would see the creation of a ‘People’s Port’ where locals could join together to buy shares and keep the port locally owned.
The second public consultation has now taken place and a decision is expected to take place sometime in the coming autumn.
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